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design still in use is Denmark's 13th century Dannebrog.]]

A flag is a piece of fabric, often flown from a pole or mast, generally used symbolically for signaling or identification. It is most commonly used to symbolize a country. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.

The first flags were used to assist military coordination on battlefields, and flags have since evolved into a general tool for rudimentary signaling and identification, especially in environments where communication is similarly challenging (such as the maritime environment where semaphore is used). National flags are potent patriotic symbols with varied wide-ranging interpretations, often including strong military associations due to their original and ongoing military uses. Flags are also used in messaging, advertising, or for other decorative purposes. The study of flags is known as vexillology, from the Latin vexillum meaning flag or banner.

Contents

History

The origin of modern flags lies in our remote prehistoric past. When people started to form large groups to live and hunt together, they appointed a leader to rule them and settle disputes. As a mark of office this leader would wear some sort of ceremonial head-dress and hold a long decorative staff, rod or spear, topped with an ornament or tribal emblem. The staff was also used as a visible sign to rally around, or to point out the direction of a march or attack. This prehistoric, or proto-flag, is known as a vexilloid. Later in Ancient China, a different tradition developed when silk was invented between 6000 and 3000 BC. This strong, light fabric was ideal for making banners, which were much easier to carry than the vexilloids that had been used earlier, and they were also easier to see from a distance. From Ancient China the use of fabric flags spread to Mongolia, Japan, India, Persia, Ancient Greece, and finally the Roman Empire and the rest of Europe.

The usage of flags spread from India and China, where they were almost certainly invented,[1] to neighboring Burma, Siam, and southeastern Asia.[1]

The Persians used Derafsh Kaviani as the flag, at the time of Achaemenian dynasty at 550–330 B.C. Afterwards it was used in different look by the late Sassanid era (224-651). It was also representative of the Sassanid state - Ērānshāhr, the "Kingdom of Iran" - and may so be considered to have been the first "national flag" of Iran.

Originally, the standards of the Roman legions were not flags, but symbols such as the eagle of Augustus Caesar's Xth legion; this graphic of the eagle would be placed on a staff for the standard-bearer to hold up during battle. But a military unit from Dacia had for a standard a dragon with a flexible tail which would move in the wind; the legions copied this, and eventually all the legions had physically flexible standards–the modern-day flag.

During the Middle Ages, flags were used for a variety of purposes including: identification of members of nobility, guilds, cities, religious worship, and for use during battles. In battle, flags were used by military companies for identification on the field and relaying of strategic instructions. Though not always, flags could identify individual leaders: in Europe, monarchs and knights; in Japan, the samurai; in China, the generals under the imperial army; and in Mexico, the Aztec alliances.

From the era of sailing vessels onwards, it has been customary (and later a legal requirement) for ships to carry flags designating their nationality;[2] these flags eventually evolved into the national flags and maritime flags of today. Flags also became the preferred means of communications at sea, resulting in various systems of flag signals; see, International maritime signal flags.

As European knights were replaced by centralized armies, flags became the means to identify not just nationalities but also individual military units. Flags became objects to be captured or defended. Eventually these flags posed too much of a practical danger to those carrying them, and by World War I these were withdrawn from the battlefields, and have since been used only at ceremonial occasions.

National flags

is the oldest tricolor]]

.]]

never half-staff]]

One of the most popular uses of a flag is to symbolize a nation or country. Some national flags have been particularly inspirational to other nations, countries, or subnational entities in the design of their own flags. Some prominent examples include:

National flag designs are often used to signify nationality in other forms, such as flag patches.

Civil flags

A civil flag is a version of the national flag that is flown by civilians on non-government installations or craft. The use of civil flags was more common in the past, in order to denote buildings or ships that were not manned by the military. In some countries the civil flag is the same as the war flag or state flag, but without the coat of arms, such as in the case of Spain, and in others it's an alteration of the war flag.

War flags

File:Ensign of the Royal Air
Standing for the UK's Royal Air Force, the Ensign of the RAF displays the RAF roundel.

Several countries (including the United Kingdom and the former Nazi Germany) have had unique flags flown by their armed forces, rather than the national flag.

Other countries' armed forces (such as those of the United States or Switzerland) use their standard national flag. The Philippines' armed forces may use their standard national flag, but during times of war the flag is turned upside down - the only known case where an upside down national flag signifies a state of war (and not merely distress.) These are also considered war flags, though the terminology only applies to the flag's military usage.

Large versions of the war flag flown on the warships of countries' navies are known as battle ensigns. In war waving a white flag indicates surrender.

International flags

Among international flags are the Flag of the United Nations, the Olympic flag and the World Flag.

Flags at sea

File:ICS
The international maritime signal flag Delta (letter D).

Flags are particularly important at sea, where they can mean the difference between life and death, and consequently where the rules and regulations for the flying of flags are strictly enforced. A national flag flown at sea is known as an ensign. A courteous, peaceable merchant ship or yacht customarily flies its ensign (in the usual ensign position), together with the flag of whatever nation it is currently visiting at the mast (known as a courtesy flag). To fly one's ensign alone in foreign waters, a foreign port or in the face of a foreign warship traditionally indicates a willingness to fight, with cannon, for the right to do so. As of 2009, this custom is still taken seriously by many naval and port authorities and is readily enforced in many parts of the world by boarding, confiscation and other civil penalties.

In some countries yacht ensigns are different from merchant ensigns in order to signal that the yacht is not carrying cargo that requires a customs declaration. Carrying commercial cargo on a boat with a yacht ensign is deemed to be smuggling in many jurisdictions.

There is a system of international maritime signal flags for numerals and letters of the alphabet. Each flag or pennant has a specific meaning when flown individually.

As well, semaphore flags can be used to communicate on an ad hoc basis from ship to ship over short distances.

Shape and design

File:Flag of
The flag of Nepal, the only national flag that is not quadrangular.

Flags are usually rectangular in shape (often in the ratio 2:3, 1:2, or 3:5), but may be of any shape or size that is practical for flying, including square, triangular, or swallow tailed. A more unusual flag shape is that of the flag of Nepal, which is in the shape of two stacked triangles.

Many flags are dyed through and through to be inexpensive to manufacture, such that the reverse side is the mirror image of the obverse (front) side. This presents two possibilities:

  1. If the design is symmetrical in an axis parallel to the flag pole, obverse and reverse will be identical despite the mirror-reversal such as the Indian Flag or Canadian Flag
  2. If not, the obverse and reverse will present two variants of the same design, one with the hoist on the left (usually considered the obverse side, see flag illustrations), the other with the hoist on the right (usually considered the reverse side of the flag). This is very common and usually not disturbing if there is no text in the design. See also US reverse side flag.

Some complex flag designs are not intended for through and through implementation, requiring separate obverse and reverse sides if made correctly. In these cases there is a design element (usually text) which is not symmetric and should be read in the same direction, regardless of whether the hoist is to the viewer's left or right. These cases can be divided into two types:

  1. The same (asymmetric) design may be duplicated on both sides. Such flags can be manufactured by creating two identical through and through flags and then sewing them back to back, though this can affect the resulting combination's responsiveness to the wind. Depictions of such flags may be marked with the symbol , indicating the reverse is congruent to (rather than a mirror image of) the obverse.
  2. Rarely, the reverse design may differ, in whole or in part, from that of the obverse. Examples are the flag of Paraguay, the flag of Oregon, and the historical flag of the Soviet Union. Depictions of such flags may be marked with the symbol .
File:Flag of
The flag of Kiribati, a banner of arms.

Common designs on flags include crosses, stripes, and divisions of the surface, or field, into bands or quarters — patterns and principles mainly derived from heraldry. A heraldic coat of arms may also be flown as a banner of arms, as is done on both the state flag of Maryland and the flag of Kiribati.

The flag of Libya, which consists of a rectangular field of green, is the only national flag using a single color and no design or insignia.

Color specification

Colors are normally described with common names such as red, but in some cases (Canada for example) the colors are specified using the Pantone color matching system.

Religious Flags

[[Image:|210x105px]]
Jain – Five-Colored Flag
[[Image:|210x105px]]
Buddhist Flag

Flags can play many different roles in religion. In Buddhism, prayer flags are used, usually in sets of five differently colored flags. Many national flags and other flags include religious symbols such as the cross, the crescent, or a reference to a patron saint. Flags are also adopted by religious groups and flags such as the Jain flag and the Christian flag are used to represent a whole religion.

Linguistic flags

File:Flag of La
Flag of La Francophonie
File:Flag of the
Flag of Hispanicity
File:Flag of
Flag of Esperanto

As languages rarely have a flag designed to represent them[3], it is a common practice, though unofficial, to use national flags to identify them. Examples of this use include:

  • representing language skills of an individual, like a staff member of a company
  • displaying available languages on a multilingual website or software.

Though this can be done in an uncontroversial manner in some cases, this can easily lead to some problems for certain languages:

  • languages generating language dispute, such as Romanian and Moldavian which some consider two different languages; and
  • languages spoken in more than one country, such as English, Arabic, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish.

In this second case, common solutions include symbolising these languages by:

  • the flag of the country where the language originated
  • the flag of the country having the largest number of native speakers
  • a mixed flag of the both (when this is not the same)
  • the flag of the country most identified with that language in a specific region (e.g. Portuguese Language: Flag of Portugal in Europe and Flag of Brazil in South America)

Thus, on the Internet, it is most common to see the English language associated to the flag of the United Kingdom, but sometimes to the flag of England, the flag of the United States or a US-UK mixed flag, usually divided diagonally.

In sports

.]] Because of their ease of signaling and identification, flags are often used in sports.

  • In football (soccer), linesmen carry small flags along the touch lines. They use the flags to indicate to the referee potential infringements of the laws, or who is entitled to possession of the ball that has gone out of the field of play, or, most famously, raising the flag to indicate an offside offence. Officials called touch judges use flags for similar purposes in both codes of rugby.
  • In American and Canadian football, referees use flags to indicate that a foul has been committed in game play. The phrase used for such an indication is flag on the play. The flag itself is a small, weighted handkerchief, tossed on the field at the approximate point of the infraction; the intent is usually to sort out the details after the current play from scrimmage has concluded. In American football, the flag is usually yellow; in Canadian football, it is usually red.
  • In yacht racing, flags are used to communicate information from the race committee boat to the racers. Different flags hoisted from the committee boat may communicate a false start, changes in the course, a canceled race, or other important information. Racing boats themselves may also use flags to symbolize a protest or distress. The flags are often part of the nautical alphabetic system of International maritime signal flags, in which 26 different flags designate the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet.
  • In auto and motorcycle racing, racing flags are used to communicate with drivers. Most famously, a checkered flag of black and white squares indicates the end of the race, and victory for the leader. A yellow flag is used to indicate caution requiring slow speed and a red flag requires racers to stop immediately. A black flag is used to indicate penalties.
  • In addition, fans of almost all sports wave flags in the stands to indicate their support for the participants. Many sports teams have their own flags, and, in individual sports, fans will indicate their support for a player by waving the flag of his or her home country.
  • Capture the flag is a popular children's sport.
  • In Gaelic football and Hurling a green flag is use to indicate a goal while a white flag is used to indicate a point
  • In Australian rules football, the goal umpire will wave two flags to indicate a goal and a single flag to indicate a point.
  • For safety, dive flags indicate the locations of underwater scuba divers.
  • In water sports such as Wakeboarding and Water-Skiing, an orange flag is held in between runs to indicate someone is in the water.

Swimming flags

In Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, and the United Kingdom a pair of red/yellow flags is used to mark the limits of the bathing area on a beach, usually guarded by surf lifesavers. If the beach is closed, the poles of the flags are crossed. The flags are colored with a red triangle and a yellow triangle making a rectangular flag, or a red rectangle over a yellow rectangle. On many Australian beaches there is a slight variation with beach condition signaling. A red flag signifies a closed beach (or, in the UK, some other danger), yellow signifies strong current or difficult swimming conditions, and green represents a beach safe for general swimming. In Ireland, a red and yellow flag indicates that it is safe to swim; a red flag that it is unsafe; and no flag indicates that there are no lifeguards on duty. Blue flags may also be used away from the yellow-red lifesaver area to designate a zone for surfboarding and other small, non-motorised watercraft.

Reasons for closing the beach include:

A surf flag exists, divided into four quadrants. The top left and bottom right quadrants are black, and the remaining area is white.

Signal flag "India" (a black circle on a yellow square) is frequently used to denote a "blackball" zone where surfboards cannot be used but other water activities are permitted.

Railway flags

Railways use a number of colored flags. When used as wayside signals they usually use the following meanings (exact meanings are set by the individual railroad company):

  • red = stop
  • yellow = proceed with care
  • green or white or blue = proceed.
  • a flag of any color waved vigorously means stop
  • a blue flag on the side of a locomotive means that it should not be moved because someone is working on it (or on the train attached to it). A blue flag on a track means that nothing on that track should be moved. The flag can only be removed by the person or group that placed it.

At night, the flags are replaced with lanterns showing the same colors.

Flags displayed on the front of a moving locomotive are an acceptable replacement for classification lights and usually have the following meanings (exact meanings are set by the individual railroad company):

  • white = extra (not on the timetable)
  • green = another section following
  • red = last section

Additionally, a railroad brakeman will typically carry a red flag to make his or her hand signals more visible to the engineer. Railway signals are a development of railway flags.[4]

In politics

File:Gay
The Rainbow flag of the LGBT social movement. A similar flag is used in Europe to support pacifism.

Social and political movements have adopted flags, to increase their visibility and as a unifying symbol.

The socialist movement uses red flags to represent their cause. The anarchism movement has a variety of different flags, but the primary flag associated with them is the black flag. In the 1970s, the rainbow flag was adopted as a symbol of the LGBT social movements. Bisexual and transgender pride flags were later designed, in an attempt to emulate the rainbow flag's success. Some of these political flags have become national flags, such as the red flag of the Soviet Union and national socialist banners for Nazi Germany.

Flagpoles

, near Panmunjeom, North Korea]]

A flagpole, flagstaff, or staff can be a simple support made of wood or metal. If it is taller than can be easily reached to raise the flag, a cord is used, looping around a pulley at the top of the pole with the ends tied at the bottom. The flag is fixed to one lower end of the cord, and is then raised by pulling on the other end. The cord is then tightened and tied to the pole at the bottom. The pole is usually topped by a flat plate or ball called a "truck" (originally meant to keep a wooden pole from splitting) or a finial in a more complex shape.

Very high flagpoles may require more complex support structures than a simple pole, such as guy wires, or need be built as a mast. The highest flagpole in the world, at 160 metres (525 ft), is that at Gijeong-dong in North Korea, the flag weighing about 270 kilograms (600 pounds) when dry.[5]

Since 2008 with 133m (436ft) the tallest free-standing flagpole in the world is the Ashgabat Flagpole in Turkmenistan, beating the formerly record holding Aqaba Flagpole in Jordan (size: 132 m; 433 ft).[6] It will however be outrivaled by the National Flag Square in Azerbaijan, which is currently under construction and will reach a height of 162m (531ft).[7] The Raghadan Flagpole in Amman is currently the third tallest free-standing flagpole in the world. It reaches a height of 126 meters (410 ft) and hoists a flag that measures 60 by 40 meters (200 by 130 feet); it is illuminated at night and can be seen from 25 km (16 miles) away.

Design

Flagpoles can be designed in one piece with a taper (typically a cone taper or a Greek entasis taper),[8] or be made from multiple pieces to make them able to expand. In the United States, ANSI/NAAMM guide specification FP-1001-97 covers the engineering design of metal flagpoles to ensure safety.

Flags and Communication

Semaphore is a form of communication that utilizes flags. The signalling is performed by an individual using two flags (or lighted wands), the positions of the flags indicating a symbol. The person who holds the flags is known as the signalman. This form of communication is primarily used by naval signallers. This technique of signalling was adopted in the early 1800s and is still used in various forms today.

See also

Lists and galleries of flags
Notable flag-related topics
Miscellaneous

References

  1. ^ a b flag. (2008). Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Articles 90-94 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
  3. ^ Why you should not use a flag as a symbol of language
  4. ^ Calvert, J.B. (2004-07-25). "Early Railway Signals". University of Denver. http://mysite.du.edu/~etuttle/rail/sigs.htm. Retrieved on 2007-10-07. 
  5. ^ "Korea's DMZ: Scariest place on Earth". CNN. February 20, 2002. http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/02/19/koreas.dmz/. 
  6. ^ "Flag of Turkmenistan". Official Homepage of the Republic of Turkmenistan. July 03, 2008. http://turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/2008/07/03/flag_of_turkmenistan_at_the_tallest_flagpole_in_the_world.html. 
  7. ^ "Wer baut den hoechsten Fahnenmast". Der Spiegel. September 09, 2008. http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-35119.html. 
  8. ^ "Cone Tapered vs. Venetian Entasis Tapered". Lingo Flagpoles Inc. Archived from the original on 2005-02-28. http://web.archive.org/web/20050228014231/http://lingoinc.com/tapers.htm. 

External links



Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Commons
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Pronunciation

Etymology 1

Middle English flagge, flag "flag", of Dutch or Scandinavian origin: Old Dutch vlagghe "flag" (Dutch vlag "flag"; German Flagge "flag"), Swedish flagg "flag", Danish flag "flag, ship's flag", Swedish flage "to flutter in the wind", Old Norse flögra "to flap about". Akin to Old High German flogarōn "to flutter", Old High German flogezen "to flutter, flicker", Middle English flakeren "to move quickly to and fro", Old English flacor "fluttering, flying". More at flacker

a flag

Noun

Singular
flag

Plural
flags

flag (plural flags)

  1. A piece of cloth, often decorated with an emblem, used as a visual signal or symbol.
  2. (nautical) A flag flown by a ship to show the presence on board of the admiral; the admiral himself, or his flagship.
  3. (nautical, often used attributively) A signal flag.
  4. The use of a flag, especially to indicate the start of a race or other event.
  5. (computer science) A variable or memory location that stores a true-or-false, yes-or-no value, typically either recording the fact that a certain event has occurred or requesting that a certain optional action take place.
  6. (computer science) In a command line interface, a notation requesting optional behavior or otherwise modifying the action of the command being invoked.
  7. (British, puerile) an abbreviation for capture the flag.
Synonyms
  • (computer science: true-or-false value): Boolean
  • (computer science: CLI notation): switch
Derived terms
Translations
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Verb

Infinitive
to flag

Third person singular
flags

Simple past
flagged

Past participle
flagged

Present participle
flagging

to flag (third-person singular simple present flags, present participle flagging, simple past and past participle flagged)

  1. To mark with a flag, especially to indicate the importance of
  2. (often with down) To signal to, especially to stop a passing vehicle etc.
    Please flag down a taxi for me.
  3. (often with up) To note, mark or point out for attention.
    I've flagged up the need for further investigation into this.# (computing): To signal (an event).
    The compiler flagged three errors.
  4. (computing): To set a program variable to true.
    Flag the debug option before running the program.
Translations

See also

Etymology 2

Probably from Old Norse.[1]

Verb

Infinitive
to flag

Third person singular
flags

Simple past
flagged

Past participle
flagged

Present participle
flagging

to flag (third-person singular simple present flags, present participle flagging, simple past and past participle flagged)

  1. (intransitive) To weaken, become feeble.
    His strength flagged toward the end of the race.
Translations

Etymology 3

Of uncertain origin; compare Danish flæg.

Noun

Singular
flag

Plural
flags

flag (plural flags)

  1. Any of various plants with sword-shaped leaves, especially irises; specifically, Iris pseudacorus.
Derived terms
Translations

Etymology 4

Probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Icelandic flag

Noun

Singular
flag

Plural
flags

flag (plural flags)

  1. (obsolete except in dialects) A slice of turf; a sod.
  2. A slab of stone; a flagstone, a flat piece of stone used for paving.
Translations

Verb

Infinitive
to flag

Third person singular
flags

Simple past
flagged

Past participle
flagged

Present participle
flagging

to flag (third-person singular simple present flags, present participle flagging, simple past and past participle flagged)

  1. To lay down flagstones.
    • Fred is planning to flag his patio this weekend.
Translations

References

  • Notes:
  1. ^flag” in the Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper, 2001

Danish

Noun

flag n. (singular definite flaget, plural indefinite flag)

  1. flag (cloth)
  2. flag (true-false variable)

Inflection

Verb

flag

  1. Imperative of flage.

Dutch

Etymology

Loan word from English.

Noun

flag f. (plural flags, no diminutive)

  1. (computing) Flag (computer science meanings).

Simple English

A flag is a piece of coloured cloth with a special design that is put on a pole as a symbol.

Flags first appeared more than 2000 years ago in China, and in Europe under the Roman Empire.

There are many types of flags:

  • An Ensign is a special type of national flag for use on ships. Different kinds of ships often use different kinds of ensigns. For example, warships use a naval ensign which is usually different from the ensigns used by other ships.
  • A Signal Flag is a flag used by ships to send messages to other ships or to people on land. Every ship keeps many different signal flags for use on different situations. Signal flags are also used for racing.
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